Lobster glut benefiting value added?
By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
26 July, 2012
The current record low lobster prices in the U.S. Northeast won’t be much of a benefit to value-added lobster processors — in the near term.
The poor quality of lobster this year is a factor, in addition to the lack of distribution needed to quickly ramp up and sell finished lobster products.
“The majority of the lobster processors are in Canada — there are very few in Maine. The lobsters are such a poor quality right now and they are not strong enough to make it there,” said Scout Wuerthner, a sales representative at Inland Lobster, a large lobster processor in Portland, Maine.
However, in the long run, the low prices will give processors more access to lobster and allow them to start new value-added product lines, added Wuerthner.
Realizing the trend toward value-added lobster products, Portsmouth Lobster Co. in Portsmouth, N.H., already began moving away from the live lobster market last year.
“We transitioned prior to everything tanking. Now we have three kinds of lobster raviolis and three chowders,” said David Hickman with Portsmouth Lobster.
However, the small company is working to build distribution in order to capitalize on this year’s abundant lobster supply.
“There is just so much out there. The fear is that there is no place for it to go. Our focus is to find new places of distribution and new areas of the country — and developing more interesting products — instead of worrying about the prices,” said Hickman.
Hickman believes Portsmouth Lobster will see a greater impact on its business next year than this year. “The big impact will be if the big guys take advantage of the low prices. It doesn’t pay for us to put stuff in a freezer — we are a small company,” said Hickman.
Meanwhile, value-added manufacturer Maristella’s Fine Foods of Boston stopped producing its lobster pot pie because of the unstable price at the time. “The biggest reason for discontinuing was the inconsistently in the cost. No one wanted to put their neck out there …. and commit to a cost a year-round,” said Robby Brandano, president and CEO of Maristella’s.
At the same time, Brandano said he is hopeful that the current low lobster prices will help value-added lobster processors in the future.
26 July, 2012